I’ve been listening to a Shure 3C in-ear headset for seven years; wow! It’s been just fine; but on a recent flight a clumsy seatmate bent the jack, so I needed something new. Audéo is made by Phonak, a Swiss outfit who’ve historically been about hearing aids not music. Apparently the disciplines are closely related, because the Audéo PFE 122 offers, by a wide margin, the best headphone sound I’ve ever heard.

I did some poking around the Web’s audiophile landscape and, while the latest from Shure and Etymōtics and Sennheiser all got good reviews, I kept running across eye-rolling over these sanely-priced Phonak offerings, about comfort and isolation and accuracy. On top of which they have a microphone and you can use them for your phone calls. On top of which they have a nice decent web site.

And on top of that, they do old-fashioned customer service. I realized I was taking off for Brazil in two business days; this means the best part of 20 hours on airplanes, and good phones are a major quality-of-life influence. The default economy shipping wasn’t going to do the job. So I called up Phonak; an actual human answered, who referred me intelligently to an Audéo specialist, who referred me intelligently to an orders-and-shipping person, who said “We don’t usually do express, but let me see, can I call you back?” She did in a just few minutes, saying “We can; it’ll cost you extra, but not too much”. So I’m sitting on the plane to Brazil typing this while I listen to some really fine-sounding tunes.

A warning: you’ll need several minutes in a relaxed well-lit setting to get the Phonaks set up. They come with a selection of passive audio filters; replacing these requires a special tool (included), a steady hand, and a calm state of mind. I prefer the “black” filters to the “grey” models that come pre-installed, but that’s just because they have better bass and I’m a headbanger; your taste may well differ.

Anyhow, they’re a dramatic step-up from the old Shures: More comfortable, much better bass, less airplane noise, and smoother when you crank ’em up a bit. That isolation in particular is a big deal; with the 122’s, I’d have to not just stop the music but peel them out of my ear if for some reason I wanted to listen to the same safety-and-services announcement for the 833rd time.

Plus they come in a nice practical little carrying case and look elegant, in a subdued way.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Brian Slesinsky (Jun 28 2011, at 21:41)

Do you know if the microphone works with Android phones? (e.g. Nexus One.)


From: Ben P (Jun 28 2011, at 23:55)

Looking for some new headphones at the moment; my concern about these is the 'over the ear' style of wearing that I've always found a bit goofy. Do they have to be worn like that? Otherwise, I might be tempted to try a set.


From: Norman Walsh (Jun 29 2011, at 04:03)

I found the pair of Shure's I bought much too uncomfortable after only a few minutes to get any real use out of them, alas. But I still think it'd be nice to have earbuds instead of great big noise canceling headphones for the plane. (The headphones do work great, though.)

So. Decent web site, eh? Well, call me blind and stupid if you must but even with Flashblock and Adblock disabled on www.audeowrold.com, I can find neither a price nor an "add to cart" button. In neither Chrome nor Firefox nor Safari.

That's a sale not getting made.


From: ebenezer (Jun 29 2011, at 05:02)

I notice the same problem: there is no Add To Cart. There are only reviews and product descriptions. Thank you, sir, for selling us all on a pair of not-for-sale headphones.


From: Mark Alexander (Jun 29 2011, at 05:43)

Wish I'd known about Audéo when I had to replace my E3C set last year (the rather brittle outer cable sheath finally broke behind both ears and was poking me uncomfortably). I ended up with the Apple In-Ear phones, which are surprisingly good for the price and work with the Nexus One.

As another commenter reported, there appears to be no way to buy the PFE 12x online. The "Please visit for your order" link just takes me in circles.


From: Caleb Ames (Jun 29 2011, at 08:15)

Hey Norman, looks like you have to pick a country to get prices. Makes sense, but I admit it's not really obvious that's what the hangup is when visiting the "international" page.


From: Peter Hornby (Jun 29 2011, at 10:02)

If you go to http://www.audeoworld.com, instead of following Tim's link, the website experience is much better. The relevant page, for US customers, is http://na.audeoworld.com/products/perfectfit/ and the price would appear to be $179.


From: Ambrose (Jun 29 2011, at 11:58)

Go here and you'll see the prices for North America.



From: Adam Sloan (Jun 29 2011, at 16:39)

My Ultimate Ears TripleFi 10s are on their way.

In-ears are such a personal choice it's hard to really know if you like 'em or not until you've got 'em in your ears. Took a looong time to decide what to shell out the cash for. Do you believe the customer reviews? Maybe they don't listen like you do. Maybe the marketing machines are planting reviews. I think in general they are all improving though as long as you don't go too cheap.


From: Denton Gentry (Jul 05 2011, at 21:26)

> just because they have better bass and I’m a

> headbanger; your taste may well differ.

Clearly, my mental model of you needs some adjustment.


author · Dad · software · colophon · rights
picture of the day
June 28, 2011
· Technology (87 fragments)
· · Audio (20 more)

By .

The opinions expressed here
are my own, and no other party
necessarily agrees with them.

A full disclosure of my
professional interests is
on the author page.